D.J. Durkin is entering his second year as defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators after spending two years as the special teams coordinator. Durkin did a good job in his new position last season — even if the majority of the credit for the defense goes to Will Muschamp.
Durkin works closely with the linebackers in practice but he has his thumb on the pulse on the entire defense. Durkin took time Thursday to meet with the media to discuss how the defense is replacing lost starters from a year ago and what he expects from some newcomers.
New Leader Emerge on Defense
- Dante Fowler has stepped into a new role for the Gators — a leadership role. Now a junior, Fowler is not just leading by example but taking a more vocal role as well.
He has his moments to speak up or say something off the field or on the sideline, and he has done that. He’s bringing some young guys along as well. I’m most proud of how he has been consistent throughout the spring.”
- Fowler has been a terror for Florida’s offensive line this season and will be one of the most important players on the defense in 2014.
- Mike Taylor has stepped into a leadership role as well. Taylor has taken some of the younger players under his wing this spring and is helping the linebacker group even though he isn’t getting the lion’s share of first team reps.
Mike knows the defense really well. He’s been great for D Mac [Daniel McMillian] and some of the younger guys, because Mike is that type of guy. He’s that type of player. He takes time to bring another guy along. He has spent time with Daniel off the field too just helping bring him along. Again, talking about a leader and a valuable guy, you can’t say enough about Mike Taylor for us.”
New blood at cornerback
- Asked how freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor compares to All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Durkin was quick to bat down those kind of lofty expectations being thrown at Tabor.
He [Hargreaves] and Jalen are different type players. Jalen is a longer type corner. Travaris Robinson, our DB coach, does a great job with our guys in terms of identifying the techniques that are good for them. Every guy is a little different in what he does well and the techniques they play with are different. So those are two different players. Both very effective.”
- Tabor has had moments where he struggled and moments where he shined. He doesn’t look like a typical freshman but Durkin is right to deflect the comparisons to Hargreaves.
- Durkin said neither Tabor nor fellow freshman Duke Dawson look like freshman out there and both are competing for the starting spot opposite Hargreaves.